There are many cases out there, especially since the beginning of the internet, where people have chosen a domain name and been subjected to domain name trademark infringement. There are many cases out there (such as the Nissan case) that have made the headlines and it is important that you know the characteristics of domain name trademark and how you can best avoid these infringements.
It is especially hard when you lose a domain name because you weren’t aware that you were committing trademark infringement, so learning how to pick a domain name that doesn’t infringe on anyone’s trademarks is ideal.
Some basics of trademark law
Before we get into how to avoid domain name trademark infringement, there are a couple of basic things to know about trademark law that can help you when you are picking out a domain name.
Names of products and services fall under trademark law. If someone else sells a product with that name, then it probably shouldn’t be used as a domain name.
Trademarks that are descriptive and distinct can be protected by law.
Trademark conflicts can happen when the use of both trademarks can confuse customers about the source.
The first commercial user of said trademark is the one that owns it. Infringing on some of these rules can constitute domain name trademark infringement.
Now that we have that out of the way, we can go on to how you can use the basics of trademark law to know if you are legally allowed to use the domain name. With all of the different kinds of businesses that are online, it can be hard to know if your domain name would infringe on anybody else’s trademark, but as long as you aren’t directly competing with the other company, you will generally be fine to use it as long as the name isn’t the exact same.
Avoiding domain name trademark infringement
So, how can you avoid domain name trademark infringement? The first place that you can go to see if anyone has trademarked your domain name is by checking the trademark database. The database will differ depending on the country that you are residing in. This will give you a decent idea of who and what is trademarked that is similar to your name.
The next thing that you should check is a search engine. Search engines are great at finding things that a customer might want despite spelling errors and synonym confusion. It can also tell you if there are domains that are already out there with similar names, that way you can know who and what your direct competition is. If there is a domain or company out there with a trademark of something that you are trying to compete in, such as if you were trying to sell baby toys and the trademark is on baby clothes, then you might want to reconsider your domain name.
Another thing that you want to look out for is if the potential customers could accidentally easily end up on your domain rather than the other person’s by accident, whether through spelling error or typo. Usually this only applies to domains that are only a few characters off from each other, but if that is the case, then you should reconsider the domain name.
Lastly, knowing whether or not the other name is well known is important. If the other website is fairly well known, then if there is any possibility that you can be in trouble, they will try to take you to court over it. Those are just a few things to keep in mind about domain name trademark infringement.